For six hundred years now red and white currants have been seeded using a feather quill to make jam that is unique in the world.
Amber or Ruby Red, this sweet ‘caviar' is best savoured by the spoonful.
For many hundreds of years the town of Bar-le-Duc has been world famous for its redcurrant jam made with currants hand seeded with a feather quill. Since 1344 nothing has changed in the way the fruit is carefully and patiently prepared by the ladies locally known as "épépineuses" (seeders).
One look at this ‘jewel encased in a glass goblet' is enough to make anyone's mouth water and it will come as no surprise that such a lovely, magical product has an equally fascinating history.
The origins of this wonderful Bar-le-Duc industry go back to the 14th century. The earliest known mention of Bar-le-Duc jam was in 1344 in a legal document. At this period it was a widespread
custom amongst the nobility and bourgeoisie to send jars of this jam as a thank-you present to judges when they had won a case.
During all these centuries the production method has remained the same. The red or white currants are hand seeded by extremely dextrous ladies using a feather quill. Once seeded, the currants are plunged into a boiling sugar solution. This method keeps the currants whole whilst preserving their full flavour and bright colour.
Our current production method is based on this age-old local
In 1364 the accounts of Jean de Longeville and those of Perrin de Lamothe in 1372, both cellarers at the castle of Bar-le-Duc, include purchases of this already famous jam. On January 7th 1403 a decision was passed in council confirming the purchase of Bar jam to the value of 90 pounds by Robert of Bar. The jam only graced the tables of great nobles as, from this period, it was considered to be a luxury item.
In the early 16th century the jam was known all over France. At the royal court and in the homes of the nobility it was considered a matter of honour to serve these famous jams in their tiny crystal jars. Accounts for the town of Bar show amounts of money spent on jam as gifts to Princes, Ladies of the Court and other important people passing through Bar, whose patronage and protection were thereby hopefully secured.
Alfred Hitchcock, that master of suspense, loved this jam. In fact he would only stay at hotels whose breakfast menu included redcurrant jam hand seeded using a feather quill.
Rather like jewel setters, currant seeders have to work with tremendous precision. Job requirements: nimble fingers, keen eyesight and the patience of Job! The "épépineuses" pass their skills
from mother to daughter. The technique consists of removing the pips, 7 on average in each currant, using a feather quill whilst retaining the shape and consistency of the fruit. Quills are first
bevelled then left to soak in water.
A small incision is carefully made into the currant and its pips are extracted one by one by sliding them into the hollow shaft of the quill. The cut is then covered with a tiny piece of the currant's skin so as to preserve the crispness and flavour of the fruit.
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